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12-volt tools

THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF WORKING WITH

ULTIMATE GUIDE 12-volt – The tools: Part 1.2

CONNECTING WIRES TOGETHER

Now that we’ve gotten the crimping out of the way, and you’re scratching your head on how to join these two wires without using terminals, let's get into the fun bit.

Joining wires can be done several different ways; here we’ll look at the two most common.

First off is just direct soldering straight wire. What you need to do, is strip back some insulation on both wires, twist the ends a little, and ‘tin’ the wires. Do this by heating one wire at a time with the soldering iron and adding solder to it. It’ll go from the normal copper colour to a nice silver colour. Once you’ve tinned both wires (and this is where a third hand comes in handy), hold them together, and place the soldering iron on both. The solder will remelt, and the two wires (if you’ve held them together), will join together with molten solder. Remove the soldering iron, and let it cool, the solder will go hard again, and you’ve now got a solid connection that should have next to no resistance and will be strong. Slide the heat shrink over the join, and heat it, so it shrinks in place; job done.

The other method (which I prefer when I’ve got enough wire to play with), is called the ‘Linesmen Splice’ or ‘Bell Splice’ (as in the US telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell). Fun fact: This is the NASA specification for joining wires together. So, by knowing this, you’re basically a rocket scientist – you’re welcome.

What you’ll need to do, is strip back a fair bit of wire on each end, say 20-30mm, and tin the wire as you would above. Once they’ve cooled to touch, bend them at 90-degrees and put one in the hook of the other. Next, you’ll want to slowly wrap each end back around on itself at least three times. From here, trim off any excess wire so there are no sharp protrusions and add solder to the entire lot. This is just about the strongest form of joining wires together, and it makes that joint stronger than the wires are separately. Once you’ve finished soldering it, it’ll look amazing, have no jagged edges, should be about the same width as the wire with its insulation, and heat shrink will cover it perfectly.

You’ve now made a better connection than any spade or bullet terminal, and you’ll not need to ever worry about it failing over corrugations.

Your test light (especially one with an incandescent globe), will give you an indication if there is power there. To use the tester, you’ll connect the lead end (usually with an alligator clip) to an earth – bolt head or something steel you know is connected to the body/chassis (beware of painted bolts – paint doesn’t conduct electricity real well) – and then touch the probe to what should have power. This is especially useful for splicing into the ignition and accessory power sources to power things you only want on when the ignition is on as an example.

The next greatest thing about having an incandescent light bulb in the test light is you may find a circuit with lower voltage, or higher voltage than the 12-volts in your system normally – especially so with newer vehicles that have variable voltage circuits in them. The globe will glow brighter for more than 12V, or duller for less than 12V.

MULTI-METER & TEST LIGHT

These are two of the best tools in your arsenal. The multi-meter is something you should keep in your kit simply due to the amount of information it can give you. The simple things you can use it for are:

  • Voltage testing: You’ll want the dial on V (for volts, right?) with the dotted line. That’s for DC volts, which is what we’re playing with here. The wavy line is for AC volts – that’s what runs your house. With the red lead to positive and black to negative, it’ll tell you what volts are at your battery – this is useful for seeing if your alternator is doing what it needs to do and how your battery is coping, among a myriad of other things.
  • Continuity/resistance testing: This usually has an Ohm (or Omega Ω) symbol on it, sometimes a little speaker picture. It will test resistance and continuity between the two leads – if you’ve got a broken wire, it will let you know. If yours has an inbuilt speaker, you can have it beep at you when there is a solid connection. If yours doesn’t have a speaker and you connect the leads to each end of a wire or connector or fuse and see O.L, this means Over Limit, which tells us there is an infinite amount of resistance, or there’s just no connection. For most testing, the lower the number, the lower the resistance, the better the connection. Bear in mind, your meter should measure kilo-ohms, and mega-ohms denoted by a little K or M on the screen.

“This is just about the strongest form of joining wires together, and it makes that joint stronger than the wires are separately."

NEED A UTE CANOPY?
REQUEST A QUOTE TODAY!

AMERICAN TRUCK UTE CANOPIES
SLIDE ON CAMPERS
INTEGRATED CANOPIES

Essentially a clamp meter has a set of jaws that you place around a wire in a circuit and using the Hall Effect will measure the current flowing through the wire. A couple of things you’ll need to know: only place the jaws around one wire, not both. Make sure the jaws are actually around the wire, not on, and make sure you select DC (dotted line) on the meter, not AC (wavy line).

These are excellent at helping you see what amps you’re drawing from your battery, and if you have something that’s using power where it shouldn’t be; say you wake up in the morning with your 4X4 turned off overnight and you’ve got a flat battery, chances are you’ve got a power drain, and you can use this to find it.

CLAMP METER

While we’re on meters, this is one you can use to check current draw. It’s not something everyone would want or need, but it’s good for confirming loads, finding parasitic drains on batteries and for me, testing electronic equipment in my articles. These are a solid bit of kit as you can do all the testing without needing to break a circuit or undo any wiring. You can test current draw with most multi-meters; however, you’ll need to put it in line and undo wiring and connect the wiring to the meter. This way you just place the jaws around the wiring.

NEXT ISSUE – ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 12-VOLT: THE COMPONENTS

Now that we’ve got the tools out of the way, next issue we’ll put a bit of that into practice where we’ll run through the components we’ll be using. Think stuff like fuses, fuse blocks, switch panels, batteries in parallel, conduit, glands, plugs and sockets; all that fun stuff.

Once we’ve done that, then we start putting it all into practice and start the install of the everything.

ULTIMATE GUIDE 12-volt – The tools: Part 1.2

12-volt tools

THE PRACTICAL SIDE OF WORKING WITH

CONNECTING WIRES TOGETHER

Now that we’ve gotten the crimping out of the way, and you’re scratching your head on how to join these two wires without using terminals, let's get into the fun bit.

Joining wires can be done several different ways; here we’ll look at the two most common.

First off is just direct soldering straight wire. What you need to do, is strip back some insulation on both wires, twist the ends a little, and ‘tin’ the wires. Do this by heating one wire at a time with the soldering iron and adding solder to it. It’ll go from the normal copper colour to a nice silver colour. Once you’ve tinned both wires (and this is where a third hand comes in handy), hold them together, and place the soldering iron on both. The solder will remelt, and the two wires (if you’ve held them together), will join together with molten solder. Remove the soldering iron, and let it cool, the solder will go hard again, and you’ve now got a solid connection that should have next to no resistance and will be strong. Slide the heat shrink over the join, and heat it, so it shrinks in place; job done.

The other method (which I prefer when I’ve got enough wire to play with), is called the ‘Linesmen Splice’ or ‘Bell Splice’ (as in the US telephone inventor Alexander Graham Bell). Fun fact: This is the NASA specification for joining wires together. So, by knowing this, you’re basically a rocket scientist – you’re welcome.

What you’ll need to do, is strip back a fair bit of wire on each end, say 20-30mm, and tin the wire as you would above. Once they’ve cooled to touch, bend them at 90-degrees and put one in the hook of the other. Next, you’ll want to slowly wrap each end back around on itself at least three times. From here, trim off any excess wire so there are no sharp protrusions and add solder to the entire lot. This is just about the strongest form of joining wires together, and it makes that joint stronger than the wires are separately. Once you’ve finished soldering it, it’ll look amazing, have no jagged edges, should be about the same width as the wire with its insulation, and heat shrink will cover it perfectly.

You’ve now made a better connection than any spade or bullet terminal, and you’ll not need to ever worry about it failing over corrugations.

MULTI-METER & TEST LIGHT

These are two of the best tools in your arsenal. The multi-meter is something you should keep in your kit simply due to the amount of information it can give you. The simple things you can use it for are:

  • Voltage testing: You’ll want the dial on V (for volts, right?) with the dotted line. That’s for DC volts, which is what we’re playing with here. The wavy line is for AC volts – that’s what runs your house. With the red lead to positive and black to negative, it’ll tell you what volts are at your battery – this is useful for seeing if your alternator is doing what it needs to do and how your battery is coping, among a myriad of other things.
  • Continuity/resistance testing: This usually has an Ohm (or Omega Ω) symbol on it, sometimes a little speaker picture. It will test resistance and continuity between the two leads – if you’ve got a broken wire, it will let you know. If yours has an inbuilt speaker, you can have it beep at you when there is a solid connection. If yours doesn’t have a speaker and you connect the leads to each end of a wire or connector or fuse and see O.L, this means Over Limit, which tells us there is an infinite amount of resistance, or there’s just no connection. For most testing, the lower the number, the lower the resistance, the better the connection. Bear in mind, your meter should measure kilo-ohms, and mega-ohms denoted by a little K or M on the screen.

Your test light (especially one with an incandescent globe), will give you an indication if there is power there. To use the tester, you’ll connect the lead end (usually with an alligator clip) to an earth – bolt head or something steel you know is connected to the body/chassis (beware of painted bolts – paint doesn’t conduct electricity real well) – and then touch the probe to what should have power. This is especially useful for splicing into the ignition and accessory power sources to power things you only want on when the ignition is on as an example.

The next greatest thing about having an incandescent light bulb in the test light is you may find a circuit with lower voltage, or higher voltage than the 12-volts in your system normally – especially so with newer vehicles that have variable voltage circuits in them. The globe will glow brighter for more than 12V, or duller for less than 12V.

“This is just about the strongest form of joining wires together, and it makes that joint stronger than the wires are separately."

AMERICAN TRUCK UTE CANOPIES

NEED A UTE CANOPY?
REQUEST A QUOTE TODAY!

SLIDE ON CAMPERS
INTEGRATED CANOPIES
ADVERTISEMENT
SCROLL TO CONTINUE

CLAMP METER

While we’re on meters, this is one you can use to check current draw. It’s not something everyone would want or need, but it’s good for confirming loads, finding parasitic drains on batteries and for me, testing electronic equipment in my articles. These are a solid bit of kit as you can do all the testing without needing to break a circuit or undo any wiring. You can test current draw with most multi-meters; however, you’ll need to put it in line and undo wiring and connect the wiring to the meter. This way you just place the jaws around the wiring.

Essentially a clamp meter has a set of jaws that you place around a wire in a circuit and using the Hall Effect will measure the current flowing through the wire. A couple of things you’ll need to know: only place the jaws around one wire, not both. Make sure the jaws are actually around the wire, not on, and make sure you select DC (dotted line) on the meter, not AC (wavy line).

These are excellent at helping you see what amps you’re drawing from your battery, and if you have something that’s using power where it shouldn’t be; say you wake up in the morning with your 4X4 turned off overnight and you’ve got a flat battery, chances are you’ve got a power drain, and you can use this to find it.

NEXT ISSUE – ULTIMATE GUIDE TO 12-VOLT: THE COMPONENTS

Now that we’ve got the tools out of the way, next issue we’ll put a bit of that into practice where we’ll run through the components we’ll be using. Think stuff like fuses, fuse blocks, switch panels, batteries in parallel, conduit, glands, plugs and sockets; all that fun stuff.

Once we’ve done that, then we start putting it all into practice and start the install of the everything.